Is Our Brain Chemistry the Difference Between Religious Saint and Violent Monster?

Patrick McNamara, the director of the Evolutionary Neurobehavior Laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine, has an interesting theory about brain chemistry and religion. It’s dopamine, McNamara says — the neurotransmitter known for exciting the reward center in our brain — that “drives the switch” between an extraordinary religious person becoming either a benevolent saint or a fanatical killer.

In an essay published over at Aeon (hat tip Dan Fincke), McNamara notes that

[B]ountiful dopamine has given rise to gifted leaders and peacemakers (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Catherine of Siena), innovators (Zoroaster), seers (the Buddha), warriors (Napoleon, Joan of Arc), teachers of whole civilizations (Confucius) and visionaries (Laozi). Some of them founded not only enduring religious traditions but also profoundly influenced the cultures and civilisations associated with those traditions.

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Christians in Wadena (MN) Wrongly Think Atheists Care About Nativity Scenes in Their Yards

Last month, I posted about a Nativity scene in a Wadena (Minnesota) park that had no business being there:

That display came down after the Freedom from Religion Foundation warned them about a possible lawsuit, leaving residents furious. In fact, they’re trying desperately to make sure this assault on Jesus backfires against atheists. How? By putting up a whole bunch of Nativity scenes outside their homes:

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Humanist-Branded License Plates Are Now Available in Maryland

The state of Maryland has fairly loose requirements when it comes to license plates. If you’d like to have one branded by a non-profit organization of your choice, for example, it’s really just a matter of getting the non-profit to fill out all the necessary paperwork.

That’s the process that Ryan Jean began in 2013 when he asked the American Humanist Association if they would go through the motions. Now he and his wife Christine are the proud owners of the first Humanist-branded plates in the state:

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Sean Hannity Defends Ban on Muslims Entering the U.S. Because It’ll Help Women and LGBT People

Sean Hannity devoted some time on his radio show Tuesday to discussing how having religious tests for (Muslim) immigrants might not be such a bad thing.

Sure, that sounds wildly discriminatory, but don’t worry… he’s just deeply worried about women and LGBT people.

You see, it seems Hannity is a newly minted feminist and champion of LGBT rights (he stated that he must “sound like the liberal here”), because he’s so very concerned about what might happen if we accept immigrants from countries where Sharia law is practiced.

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Man’s Death Sentence Overturned Because Prosecutors Told Jurors to Consider Biblical Law

In 1992, Rudolph Roybal was found guilty of first-degree murder, robbery and burglary. He had allegedly stabbed a woman (who had once employed him) 13 times, beaten her up, and slashed her neck before stealing her jewelry and heading to a different state. A jury found him guilty of the crime.

But when it came time to decide his penalty, the prosecutor urged the jury to consider something that had nothing to do with the evidence:

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